It’s fair to say that Steve Wynne is a very, very busy man. As well as running his BAFTA nominated independent TV production company Strawberry Blond, which makes lots of fast-paced, engaging shows for Channel 4, the BBC, UKTV and YouTube, the father of three is over at Radio 1 every week filming its Live Lounge music specials with DJ Clara Amfo. He also records his own popular podcast Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells and makes others too for the likes of singer/songwriter Becky Hill.
Yet despite such a hectic schedule, Steve still finds the time to take all of his Strawberry Blond team, who are based in London’s Shoreditch, to a weekly yoga class. Phew, I’m exhausted at just the thought of such a frenetic existence, never mind living it, but it would seem that this is what Steve and his team thrive on.
“They are unbelievably talented, and almost all of them are under 30,” he explains. “We pride ourselves on not taking things too seriously. Without the team I would be nothing.”
Getting into – let alone succeeding in – the world of TV is notoriously difficult so how did Steve manage to do it? “I was the world’s worst hospital radio presenter at the age of 15 and I’m sure made people more ill,” he laughs. “I then worked at my local radio station and did a Media Studies degree at uni. I applied for every single job in the Media Guardian every Monday.
“I’m from the North and had no contacts in the media world but some fools took a punt on me just before my 21st birthday and I ended up in Rome working for a digital satellite network owned by the Saudi royal family. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not!”
Since that rather unconventional start Steve has gone on to work on some very famous TV shows including SM:TV, the hugely entertaining Saturday morning kids’ show which first aired in 1998 and was pretty much the launch pad for its presenters Ant and Dec and Cat Deeley. “Being involved with SM:TV really was incredible. I got to fly around the world to interview Billie Piper and Westlife in Mexico, Britney Spears and Sabrina the Teenage Witch in the US – oh, and Five and Steps in er . . . Uxbridge. I was the voice of Chums – SM:TV’s rip-off of the Friends sitcom – but I don’t like to talk about it,” Steve jokes, tongue firmly in cheek.
“We were the underdogs as Live & Kicking was on the other side, but we ended up beating the BBC in the ratings on a Saturday morning for the first time since Tiswas. It was a lot of fun and I never stopped laughing.”
Steve then went on to become an Executive Producer at Disney, where he stayed for seven years, running the UK studio arm of the American corporate giant and working on shows such as Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus’s alter ego. After that he defected to Disney’s rivals, Warner Brothers, where he got to travel the world and was tasked with, amongst other things, making 80s style sitcoms in Russia and international versions of The Bachelor.
‘It’s often famine and feast in TV, and difficult to predict where the next big thing is going to come from. But I realised everyone is making it up in telly’
But such a smorgasbord of TV experience didn’t quite mean that it would all be plain sailing once Steve started thinking about going it alone.
“Having been at Disney and Warner Brothers, I thought it would be so easy to set up an ‘indie’ and make thousands of shows. I hadn’t reckoned that there’s far more talented people than me out there with better contacts.
“It’s often famine and feast in TV, and difficult to predict where the next big thing is going to come from. But I realised everyone is making it up in telly. So we’re all in the same boat.”
After working for a couple of independents, Rival and Pretzel, Steve launched Strawberry Blond in 2017 with a show called The Playlist, a children’s entertainment and music series for CBBC. It’s now in its third series and has allowed Steve to build up his ‘incredible team’ who are currently working on a Channel 4 archaeology pilot, producing content for the Stand Up 2 Cancer campaign later this month and have just delivered the Dave News for UKTV from the Edinburgh Festival.
Their Radio 1 Live Lounge shows are about to air weekly from October 7 and will feature some of the music scene’s biggest names.
“I started in radio and so it’s a dream to work at Radio 1 each week and get the type of access we have to the artists,” adds Steve. “Lewis Capaldi is hilarious, The 1975 are incredible and Craig David always brings chocolate! No one has been terrible – yet!”
Given the success it has achieved in such a short period of time, it’s no surprise to hear that Strawberry Blond will be opening a second office in Bristol soon. The team are also working hard on developing even more new ideas.
Steve admits: “I have no idea whether they might work or not but we’re having the best time doing it all.” Somehow I bet they are!
Steve’s top tips on how to get into TV
Focus on the two or three companies you want to work for. Find out the name of the person who might be able to help you, and make a connection with them
Be persistent. The worst thing people can do is ignore you so you’ve got nothing to lose
Get experience anywhere you can find it. And be passionate. I cannot tell you how many people email and it’s a cut and paste with no excitement at all
My memorable moments
Producing the Disney Kids Awards at the Royal Albert Hall
Asking Justin Timberlake on an open-top London bus what happens when *NSYNC split
Thinking the head of Russia’s main TV channel was going to kill me
Asking Mister Maker to be our daughter’s godfather